Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘the Force

Monday Night Links!

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Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’ Will Be R-Rated: ‘The Revenant’s Mark L. Smith Frontrunner Scribe. Patrick Stewart would play Picard again, but only for Tarantino. Still pretty firmly on board.

* Pretty strong contender for the moment the Singularity happened: an AI teaches itself chess in four hours and beats the strongest human-designed AI that exists, which itself can beat any human. AI is now so complex its creators can’t trust why it makes decisions.

It is significant that it is women of colour, a doubly marginalised group, who are at the forefront of finding new ways to figure uneven development during this, our time, of successive systemic crises. Imbalances between cores and (internal and external) peripheries appear in the novels of Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor that also brought Caribbean, Yoruba, and Igbo folk culture into the core of genre sf at the same time as working to explode it. More recently, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth novels (2015-2017) feature a fantasy world repeatedly wracked by cataclysmic geological upheavals that can easily be read as a metaphor for anthropogenic climate change. But as their coded commentary on #BlackLivesMatter, hardened borders, and refugee-panics indicate, these profound shocks are also those to which capitalist cores expose their internal and external peripheries. From world sf (via, if we must, World Sf) to world-sf.

* The short story phenomenon that’s sweeping the world: Men React to “Cat Person.” Based on the original short story by 

* Dragon debris.

* When an algorithm writes science fiction.

André 3000 lands big role in sci-fi film, ‘High Life’ — about convicts sent on a mission to a black hole, penned by Zadie Smith.

* One of my graduate students, Brian Kenna, has a terrific review of the new Tolkien publication Beren and Lúthien in the Los Angeles Review of Books, focusing both on Tolkien and gender as well as the weird inaccessibility of Christopher Tolkien’s editorial decisions. Check it out!

Every English major joke is a small concession to the same logic that leads administrators to trim humanities programs, or leads lawmakers to strike the NEA and NEH from the budget as wasteful, though these offices claim at best fractions of fractions of our larger national expenses. Humorless Man Yells at English Major Jokes. Facing My Own Extinction.

* How to Teach a Cyborg.

* Stony Brook Professor Detained in Cameroon.

8 Grad Students Are Arrested Protesting the GOP Tax Bill on Capitol Hill. College and the End of Upward Mobility. How Harvard’s Hypocrisy Could Hurt Your Union. Private Colleges Had 58 Millionaire Presidents in 2015. Charles Koch Gave $50 Million To Higher Ed In 2016. What Did He Buy?

* In the richest country in human history. How Big Medicine Can Ruin Medicare for All. Girl has blunt message for Aetna after her brain surgery request was denied.

Drug trial shows promising results to fight Huntington’s disease. This is a very promising finding: whether or not this particular treatment becomes “the cure” or not, the fact that you can shut off huntingtin production without negatively impacting the adult brain suggests some version of this treatment could diminish or entirely prevent the emergence of the disease. “I really think this is, potentially, the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative disease in the past 50 years.”

* Here’s what happens when noble, determined people win — and find themselves in an unwinnable situation.

After Trent Franks, men worry if asking subordinates to bear their child is still okay. For Female Lobbyists, Harassment Often Accompanies Access. Al Franken’s selfish, damaging resignation speech. Time POTY more or less gets it right for once. The Unsexy Truth about Harassment. Weinstein as Crime Boss. As More College Students Say “Me Too,” Accused Men Are Suing For Defamation. Dirty Old Men on the Faculty. Over two thousand entries on a Google doc detailing sexual harassment in the academy. Our Professors Raped Us.

“You can have my vote if you have sex with me,” Ms. Alarid recalled the lawmaker saying, although he used cruder language for sexual intercourse. He told Ms. Alarid she had the same first name as his wife, so he would not get confused if he called out in bed. Then he kissed Ms. Alarid on the lips, she said.

Shocked, Ms. Alarid, who was 32 at the time, pushed him away. Only after he was gone did she let the tears flow.

When her bill came up on the floor of the New Mexico House of Representatives the next day, March 20, 2009, it failed by a single vote, including a “No” by the lawmaker, Representative Thomas A. Garcia.

As Ms. Alarid watched from the House gallery, she said, Mr. Garcia blew her a kiss and shrugged his shoulders with arms spread.

Official Toll in Puerto Rico: 64. Actual Deaths May Be 1,052. Just one story of thousands: Lives at Risk Inside a Senior Complex in Puerto Rico With No Power.

‘Holy crap’: Experts find tax plan riddled with glitches. The Republican tax bill: four takeaways. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lets corporations loose to do what they will—and then imposes pain to make the numbers work. And inevitably.

The first wintertime megafire in California history is here. California’s wildfires are not “natural” — humans made them worse at every step. Incarcerated women risk their lives fighting California fires. It’s part of a long history of prison labor. California Is Running Out of Inmates to Fight Its Fires.

* The ‘poisoned landscapes’ we leave behind. As the climate changes and seas swell, coastal colleges struggle to prepare. Fracking Is a Huge American Money Pit.

Don’t blame the election on fake news. Blame it on the media.

* thisisfine.jpg

* “Here are the keys, Don, gas is in the tank.”

Pilots stop 222 asylum seekers being deported from Germany by refusing to fly. Deportation under Trump.

Millennials now biggest voting group in U.S., 2-1 Democratic.

Dem lawmaker calls for extra protections to ‘safeguard’ Senate pages if Moore is elected. That’s MILWAUKEE’S OWN Dem lawmaker Gwen Moore.

* “Lest I be misinterpreted, I emphatically affirm that education confers some marketable skills, namely literacy and numeracy.” Don’t give an inch, brother!

How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult.

* “‘Ambiance and atmosphere models’ contractually obligated to pretend they’re party guests are in record demand from local agencies.”

*An exclusive analysis of data from the 50 largest local police departments in the United States shows that police shoot Americans more than twice as often as previously known.

Bodycam footage of the incident, released after the verdict, showed Mr Shaver on his knees asking officers not to shoot him just before he was killed.

Subsequently, The Intercept, working with the ACLU of Texas, obtained several DPS dashcam videos that show immigrants being detained on the road for trivial violations and then carted away by the Border Patrol.

Mark Hamill Made Up an Absurdly Grim Backstory for Luke Skywalker Ahead of The Last Jedi. The “True Nature of the Force” is More Complicated Than You Think. I made the “the Force is the villain” prediction way back in 2015, too, and still think some version of it is going to land. Star Wars vs. the Nazis. The First Impressions for Star Wars: The Last Jedi Are Overwhelmingly GoodAnd the only review I needed from the only voice I trust.

An extremely petty breakdown of everything dumb in the Jurassic World 2 trailer.

The Hollywood Drama Around Annihilation Shows Why We Can’t Have Smart Things.

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met.

* Very 2017 Headlines: Why are America’s farmers killing themselves in record numbers?

* Modern politics.

* LEGO politics.

* No one makes a living on Patreon.

* Dial B for Blog is back! Again!

* Podcasts have truly arrived: they’re being turned into superhero movies.

* Tis the season: reference-writing guidelines for avoiding gender bias.

* The fascinating history of the first commercial jetliner.

A classified government document opens with “an odd sequence of events relating to parapsychology has occurred within the last month” and concluded with an alarming question about psychics nuking cities so that they became lost in time and space. If this sounds like a plot out of science fiction, it is – but it’s also a NSA memo from 1977.

A New Optical Illusion Was Just Discovered, And It’s Breaking Our Brains.

* A female translator reckons with The Odyssey.

* When a DNA test tells who your daddy isn’t.

* Stalk your friends the Wired way.

* From Zoey’s eyeballs to megabucks: This 6-year-old made $11 million on YouTube in one year.

* And Slaughterhouse-Five is coming to TV. Can’t wait to see what they cook up for season two…

Written by gerrycanavan

December 11, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Tuesday Links!

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* I put up my Fall syllabi yesterday, if you missed it! Courses on Tolkien, Hamilton, and “Utopia in America” this time out.

* Jaimee has two new poems out in Mezzo Cammin: “Good Women” and “Perseveration.”

* SFRA Review 321 is out, with a interview with Cory Doctorow.

* Octavia Butler, remembered by her friend Shirlee Smith.

* A bar joke. Simulationism. Dadproof. Honestly, how did you miss this?

* A nice interview with Adam Kotsko about his book on the devil.

Somewhat surprisingly, in the early centuries of Christianity, there was a durable minority position to the effect that the devil would be saved. Ultimately that view was condemned as heretical, and what interests me is how vehemently theologians rejected it—the emotional gut reaction always seemed out of proportion to me. And the argument, such as it is, always boils down to the same thing: if the devil can be saved, that misses the whole point of having the devil in the first place. It is as though Christian theology gradually came to need a hard core of eternal, unredeemable blameworthiness, a permanent scapegoat who can never escape.

* CFP: Utopia and Apocalypse (SUS 2017, Memphis). And there’s still time jump on our “After Suvin” roundtable at SUS, if you get something in to us ASAP…

* CFP: ExRe(y) 2018. Exhaustion and Regeneration in Post-Millennial North-American Literature and Visual Culture.

Gender Issues in Video Games.

* Tenure track job in carceral studies.

Professional romance novelists can write 3,000 words a day. Here’s how they do it.

Yes, Your Manuscript Was Due 30 Years Ago. No, the University Press Still Wants It.

* The backfire effect failed to replicate, so it’s safe to be a know-it-all again.

* The grad school horror story of the moment: Why I Left Academia.

http://academiaiskillingmyfriends.tumblr.com.

Undergraduates Are Workers, Too.

“Grade Inflation” as a Path to Ungrading.

The idea of white victimhood is increasingly central to the debate over affirmative action.

* UCI has reversed itself on rescinding admissions. Good!

* “The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe”: As the Voyager mission is winding down, so, too, are the careers of the aging explorers who expanded our sense of home in the galaxy.

A Trip To The Men’s Room Turned Jeff Kessler Into The NCAA’s Worst Nightmare.

* Race and reaction gifs. Race and speeding tickets. Race and dystopia. Race and police dogs.

* Privilege and video games.

Google Employee’s Anti-Diversity Manifesto Goes ‘Internally Viral.’ Google Fires Author of Divisive Memo on Gender Differences.

You Are the Product.

The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration. No wonder that, even while his White House sinks deeper into chaos, scandal and legislative mismanagement, Mr. Trump’s approval rating among whites (and only whites) has remained unnaturally high. Washington may obsess over Obamacare repeal, Russian sanctions and the debt ceiling, but Mr. Trump’s base sees something different — and, to them, inspiring.

We have a political problem no one wants to talk about: very old politicians.

No One Should Have Sole Authority to Launch a Nuclear Attack. No one should have that authority, period.

* Rules don’t matter anymore, stupids. What the Trump-Russia grand jury means. The very thing that liberals think is imperiled by Trump will be the most potent source of his long-term power and effects. If you want a vision of the future.

* 2018 won’t save you. Really. And obviously the Democrats won’t. Obviously.

* But sure I guess everything is fine now.

* Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Shut these guys down too.

* Fired/Rehired: Police departments are often forced to put officers fired for misconduct back on the streets.

* Also it’s weird how we don’t have a State department anymore and no one cares.

* After #TheResistance.

* When Trump trumps love.

* Can the subaltern vote?

Big Data Is Coming to Take Your Health Insurance.

How Trump’s FCC aided Sinclair’s expansion: Use of a regulatory loophole will allow Sinclair to reach 72 percent of U.S. households after buying Tribune’s stations.

* Y’all ready for debt ceiling? Democrats should do exactly what is described here.

Hey Marvel, please don’t take away female Thor’s hammer. Don’t give Confederacy the benefit of the doubt.

* For the dinosaurs, ten minutes separated survival and extinction.

* On names.

* Neurolinguistic programming: how to win an argument edition.

* More on Amazon and anti-trust.

* A short film about Chris Ware.

* “Karate Kid but the bully is the hero” has been a go-to joke for years, but only Netflix could make it real.

* Disconnect your Internet-connected fish tank now.

“Adversarial perturbations” and AI.

* How close are we to a Constitutional Convention?

The Only Place in the World Where Sea Level Is Falling, Not Rising. American Trees Are Moving West, and No One Knows Why. Wildfires in Greenland. Coming Attractions. The Atlas for the End of the World.

Yes, we’re angry. Why shouldn’t we be? Why aren’t you? Why Does Being a Woman Put You at Greater Risk of Having Anxiety? Suicides in teen girls hit 40 year high.

* Your labor in the process of being replaced. Your opinion is increasingly irrelevant. Your presence on Earth will soon no longer be required. Thank you for your service; the robots are here.

* Jeff Goldblum is The Doctor in Doctor Who (dir. John Carpenter, 1983).

* The question of Klingon head ridges has officially become pathological.

* Agricultural civilization may be 30,000 years older than we thought.

* A People’s History of the Gray Force.

* A People’s History of Time Lord Regenerations.

* A People’s History of Westeros.

* The Dark Tower: What The Hell Happened?

* Pitching Battlestar Galactica.

* Littlefinger for New Jersey is tough to argue.

When Will Humanity Finally Die Out? There’s always death to look forward to.

* Smartphones and The Kids Today.

* Zero at Rotten Tomatoes.

* Twitter is bad, YA edition.

* Time for some game theory.

* More scenes from the collapse of the New York City subway system.

Africa has entered the space race, with Ghana’s first satellite now orbiting earth.

* Are you ready to LAUGH?

Reminder that Kurt Russell probably wrote the IMDB trivia section for Escape from L.A.

* I knew it.

* Same.

* And please consider this my resignation.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 8, 2017 at 10:10 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Sunday’d Reading!

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* Presenting the International Journal of James Bond Studies.

* On graduate labor and the Yale commencement protest.

A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project.

“Self-defense” in America safeguards the privileges of white men as possessors of property, arbiters of sexual access, and inflictors of violence.

* Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared! Jared!

* Flynn, Sessions, etc.

* So old I can remember when Eric and Donald Jr. were going to run the business and not have a political role. (January.)

* Cool, thanks for looking into it.

* Same joke but with the one of the highest capitalized companies on the planet claiming poverty to avoid not being quite so sexist.

Google has begun using billions of credit-card transaction records to prove that its online ads are prompting people to make purchases – even when they happen offline in brick-and-mortar stores, the company said Tuesday.

Google’s AI Is Now Creating Its Own AI.

The Republicans Broke American Politics, and Media Elites Are Blind to It. A week that reveals how rotten today’s Republican Party is.

The life and death of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. It’s too late, of course, the cultists will believe in it for all time.

* Horrific hate crime in Portland. Seems to be part of a disturbing trend.

* New Orleans principal loses job after wearing Nazi-associated rings in video. Glowing 2015 profile.

* Meanwhile, in Arizona. In New Jersey.

* New Jersey not doing great in my newsfeed today generally. Though this was good.

* U.S. Airstrike Killed Over 100 Civilians in Mosul, Pentagon Says. The U.S. Is Helping Allies Hide Civilian Casualties in Iraq and Syria.

* ‘Mostly Toddlers’ Among 31 Drowned.

* A spectre is haunting Goldman Sachs.

* Trump going to the mattresses.

How Alleged Russian Hacker Teamed Up With Florida GOP Operative.

* Democrats doing much better, still can’t win a damn thing. The only answer is to keep offering them nothing and telling them they’re stupid, until they finally come around. Wake up, liberals: There will be no 2018 “blue wave,” no Democratic majority and no impeachment. Donald Trump Is A Big Reason The GOP Kept The Montana House Seat.

* The end of Breitbart?

* Remember how terrible the AHCA is?

* Can Trump pardon by tweet?

* Trump and the drug war.

* RNC PR BS but even more so.

* Sheriff Clarke and some totally appropriate, not at all batshit insane behavior.

* A GoFundMe Campaign Is Not Health Insurance.

* A 31-year-old undocumented Honduran bicyclist, Marcos Antonio Huete, was hit by a car in Key West, Florida, on his way to work. The policeman’s camera shows him inquiring about the victim’s immigration status before offering medical assistance. He was later detained by the Border Patrol.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers ate breakfast at a Michigan restaurant, got up, and detained three employees on Wednesday morning.

* “We want you to think Luke is bad” is an awfully large part of Last Jedi hype. I have to think that means they won’t actually do it…

* Title IX Policy shift at the University of Oregon: Faculty members at the University of Oregon will no longer be required to notify campus authorities when students confide in them that they’ve been sexually assaulted or harassed but say they don’t want the information reported.

* Wealth, I realized, is the adult version of magic: an incredibly powerful but ultimately arbitrary resource that transfers primarily through inheritance. It has some logic to it— but also enough randomness that those without can hope for a spontaneous windfall in the form of an improbably lucrative investment or a secret inheritance.

* Disaster: The Game!

* Unexpected and interesting: Joss Whedon isn’t just finishing Justice League; he’s been working on it for a while.

* Not So Random Trek.

* Truly, ours is the darkest timeline.

* Spiders appear to offload cognitive tasks to their webs, making them one of a number of species with a mind that isn’t fully confined within the head.

The average person keeps thirteen secrets, five of which he or she has never shared with anyone else.

* A chance meeting with Mr. Rogers.

* RIP, Denis Johnson.

* Crayola by the numbers.

If you’d bought $1,000 of Bitcoin in 2010, you’d be worth $35M.

* Uber: a cheap scam all the way down.

* Original draft of Revenge of the Sith actually treated Padme as an interesting character.

* Obituaries My Mother Wrote for Me While I Was Living in San Francisco in My Twenties.

* These birds have the right idea.

* This one cuts me. When you’re in your thirties. Call CPS. #TheResistance.

* Everything was connected, and I was fucked.

* Can someone please explain the physics of Casper?

* And N6946-BH1 is all of us right now.

Written by gerrycanavan

May 28, 2017 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Weekend Links, Omnibus Edition (Only $19.99/Month for the First Six Months at the Canavan Pro Tier)

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* I watched The Stanford Prison Experiment (from 2015) yesterday, so of course I spent the rest of the day reading up on it. Some bonus Milgram!

* Nalo Hopkinson has created the Lemonade Award, which will be awarded to five people or groups who “perform small and large actions of kindness” in the SFF field.

Capybaras break out of Toronto zoo, on the lam for 3 weeks.

* Behold: Pigoons.

* The economics of Hamilton.

* The fuzzy math of drone war.

* PTSD and embodied consciousness, or, modern warfare destroys the brain.

* “The board of trustees voted to cut African-American studies, philosophy, religious studies and women’s studies.” Clearly Bruce Rauner wants to weaken unions. But I suspect that his ambition goes further: the mantra of “flexibility” now in play in Wisconsin would seem to be a strategy to diminish or eliminate whole fields of academic endeavor: African-American studies, art history, classical studies, cultural studies, foreign languages, literature, philosophy, queer studies, women’s studies, whatever might be deemed impractical, unprofitable, unacceptable.

Liberal-Arts Majors Have Plenty of Job Prospects, if They Have Some Specific Skills, Too.

* 25 Words Your Kindergartener Must Know Before First Grade.

Ars is excited to be hosting this online debut of Sunspring, a short science fiction film that’s not entirely what it seems. It’s about three people living in a weird future, possibly on a space station, probably in a love triangle. You know it’s the future because H (played with neurotic gravity by Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch) is wearing a shiny gold jacket, H2 (Elisabeth Gray) is playing with computers, and C (Humphrey Ker) announces that he has to “go to the skull” before sticking his face into a bunch of green lights. It sounds like your typical sci-fi B-movie, complete with an incoherent plot. Except Sunspring isn’t the product of Hollywood hacks—it was written entirely by an AI. To be specific, it was authored by a recurrent neural network called long short-term memory, or LSTM for short. At least, that’s what we’d call it. The AI named itself Benjamin.

* This paper seems like a B- at best: The authors regret that there is an error in the published version of “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies” American Journal of Political Science 56 (1), 34–51. The interpretation of the coding of the political attitude items in the descriptive and preliminary analyses portion of the manuscript was exactly reversed. Thus, where we indicated that higher scores in Table 1 (page 40) reflect a more conservative response, they actually reflect a more liberal response. Specifically, in the original manuscript, the descriptive analyses report that those higher in Eysenck’s psychoticism are more conservative, but they are actually more liberal; and where the original manuscript reports those higher in neuroticism and social desirability are more liberal, they are, in fact, more conservative.

“Shut up and don’t talk to me again, okay?” the flight attendant says in the video. “If you talk to me again, I tell the cops, and you get arrested in Miami.”

There is a Dalek in the BBC that could actually help save your life.

* Department of precrime, parenting edition.

2 Valedictorians in Texas Declare Undocumented Status, and Outrage Ensues.

* Interesting times: Mitch McConnell Won’t Rule Out Rescinding His Endorsement of Donald Trump. Romney says Trump will change America with ‘trickle-down racism.’ #NeverTrump 2.0. Hundreds Say Donald Trump Has a Problem Paying His Bills. How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions. The Next Two Weeks: Either Trump Or Unexpected Redemption Led by Wisconsin.

Gawker Files for Bankruptcy After Losing Hulk Hogan Privacy Case.

* On crafting a victim-impact statement.

Spomenik_01Abandoned Yugoslavian Monuments.

This sense of helplessness in the face of such entrenched segregation is what makes so alluring the notion, embraced by liberals and conservatives, that we can address school inequality not with integration but by giving poor, segregated schools more resources and demanding of them more accountability. True integration, true equality, requires a surrendering of advantage, and when it comes to our own children, that can feel almost unnatural.

Democrats Will Learn All the Wrong Lessons From Brush With Bernie.

Last year, inmates served 79,726 dead days at a cost of $143 per person per day in 2015. In other words, people spent 218 years’ worth of unnecessary time in jail at a cost of $11 million to taxpayers.

* The Future of War.

* People who value time over money are happier.

Instead of flipping through photo albums to reminisce, guest contributor Janine Hawkins loads up her late mother’s saved games.

* Headcanon watch: Han Solo was an untrained Force user. Stan Lee Is Playing the Watcher in Every Marvel Film.

What Game of Thrones Changed About Its Big Antiwar Speech, and Why It Matters.

Dan Harmon & Justin Roiland on Their Original Rick & Morty Season 2 Finale Plan, Season 3.

How to Stage a Broadway Musical With Deaf Actors.

Elon Musk and the Pentagon may be working on a real-life Iron Man suit.

* Reckoning with OJ.

Enter the Wild, Disturbing, Alien-Busting World of the Astralnauts.

Study: Most antidepressants don’t work for young patients.

* “I Was 20 Weeks Pregnant When They Told Me My Baby Might Never Be Able to Walk.” Gut-wrenching story. Serious trigger warning for miscarriage and for type-one diabetes.

As far as legal experts are aware, the Oregon court decision is the first time a court in the U.S. has ruled that nonbinary is a legal gender.

* When I later asked him whether the “Mr. Nobody” moniker ever bothered him he said “No, why should it have? There are two things about me. First, I am a very happy person, though I’ve lived an unhappy life. And sec­ond, I’m happy until I have to say my name, which carries a great deal of negativity for me. What troubles most people is that I want to be anonymous, without an identity. To them, this idea seems absolutely dangerous.”

Aphantasia: How It Feels To Be Blind In Your Mind.

Welcome to Larry Page’s Secret Flying-Car Factories.

* The end of the gas station.

* The end of non-digital film.

Bryce Masters was 17 years old when a police officer tased him for 23 seconds. His heart stopped for almost eight minutes. His life will never be the same.

What’s the most “normal” place in the US?

How the Police Identify Threats on Social Media. How Colleges Train for Active Shooters on Campus.

* Miracles and wonders: Man lives 555 days without a heart.

I am awaiting some sign from Twitter that it cares whether its platform is becoming a cesspit of hate.

* I want to believe! Sorry But Medieval Armies Probably Didn’t Use Fire Arrows.

* Understanding time travel in Game of Thrones. Distills down the leading Bran theories for your lunchtime consumption.

* I think I’ve done this one before, but: Class Struggle: The Board Game.

* It sounds like Larry David is thinking about Curb Your Enthusiasm again.

* Rolling Jubilee v. John Oliver in The Baffler.

Creative Ways To Fix Your Broken Phone Screen.

* Let William Shatner Sell You a Commodore VIC-20.

* Animal liberation now! Harry Potter play to stop using live owls.

class-struggle-board-game-2

Written by gerrycanavan

June 11, 2016 at 10:22 am

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Tolkien, THE FORCE AWAKENS, and the Sadness of Expanded Universes

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(some spoilers near the end of the post, though I try to be vague)

Not long after completing The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien briefly began work on a sequel called The New Shadow, set 100 to 150 years later during the reign of Aragorn’s son Eldarion. (The main link between the two stories is the minor character Beregond, the noble but disgraced soldier of Gondor whose son, Borlas, would have been a major character in The New Shadow.) The New Shadow reveals that the eucatastrophic fairy-tale ending of The Return of the King was extremely short-lived; with the Elves and the Wizards gone from Middle-earth, the Dwarves moving underground, and the Hobbits now isolated in what amounts to an enclave in the Shire, Men are quickly falling back into their old bad habits. In fact the Men of Gondor already seem to have forgotten much of the details of the War of the Ring, even though it remains in living memory: they seem not to remember, or take seriously, the fact that they once strode with gods and angels in a war against pure evil, and were victorious. Instead, children play at being Orcs for fun; the death of Elessar has been an occasion for political striving and reactionary plots; and even something like a secret death cult of devil-worshipping rebels seems to be spreading through the elites of Gondor.

Tolkien wrote 13 pages of it.

He later wrote:

I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall, but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless — while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors — like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the plot and its discovery and overthrow — but it would have been just that. Not worth doing.

Instead, Tolkien turned his attention back to the imaginative project that had more or less defined his life: The Silmarillion, begun between 1914 and 1917, which he tinkered with on and off until his death in 1973. The Silmarillion has always marked, I think, the grey line between being a casual Tolkien fan and becoming a Tolkien enthusiast — a path that then leads one even further into Christopher Tolkien’s twelve-volume History of Middle-Earth and the discovery of Tolkien’s own very elaborate (and somewhat fannish) self-commentary on his legendarium alongside many multiple alternate drafts of the narratives that form the barely glimpsed mythological background of The Lord of the Rings. 

The Silmarillion is nominally a prequel — ostensibly it is the Elvish legends that Bilbo translated and appended to the Red Book while he was retired in Rivendell — but the published version of the book includes a two-page summary of the War of the Ring that culminates in a brief, New-Shadow-style glimpse past Aragorn’s reign. We are reminded of the sapling of the White Tree that Aragorn and Gandalf find in the mountains near Gondor, which Aragorn plants in Minas Tirith as a symbol of his reign, and told that “while it still grew there the Elder Days were not wholly forgotten in the hearts of the Kings.” While it still grew there — which is to say, it doesn’t grow there anymore.

I don’t know that I would call this material “sinister,” but I taught The Silmarillion this semester after having tried and failed to read it as a child, and I think it would certainly be fair to call it “depressing.” What looks, in The Lord of the Rings, like a fairy-tale about how good and decent folk are able to do the impossible and defeat evil (with just a little bit of help from the divine, here and there) becomes in The Silmarillion and The New Shadow and Tolkien’s pseudo-theological commentary only the briefest, most temporary respite from a nightmare history in which things always turn out wrong, millennia after millennia after millennia. In fact Arda, the planet on which the continent of Middle-earth rests, is a cursed and fallen place, infused with evil and wickedness at its material core, and the only thing to do is raze the place and start over, as Eru Ilúvatar will at long last at the very end of time. To study Tolkien beyond Lord of the Rings is to come to a keen understanding of how tragic this history actually is, how Return of the King looks like a happy ending mostly because that’s where Tolkien (quite deliberately and self-consciously) decided to stop writing. But the Fourth Age was no better than the Third, and likely quite worse, and on and on through the degenerative millennia that bring us to the end of the Sixth Age and the beginning of the Seventh with the fall of the Third Reich and the development of the atom bomb.

I’ve been thinking about The New Shadow since it became clear that The Force Awakens would be borrowing from the Expanded Universe the notion that the Battle of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi did not mark a full or permanent victory for the Rebel Alliance. The Force Awakens is The New Shadow, sinister and depressing, except they decided to go ahead and do it anyway. I joked in the link post earlier this morning that you can tell who read the EU novels and who didn’t based on whether your reaction to The Force Awakens is sadness — but the events of The Force Awakens, as sad as they are, are really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how horribly Luke, Leia, and Han are punished in the EU novels, over and over, as everything they attempt to build turns to ash and the galaxy repeatedly falls into chaos, war, and catastrophe. In the farthest reaches of the EU universe, the Star Wars Legacy comics, set around 140 years or so after the Battle of Yavin, Luke’s descendent Cade Skywalker wanders a Galaxy that is again in war, as it always is, with a resurgent Empire again ruled by Sith masters — and when one casts oneself into the mists of time in the other direction (in material like the Knights of the Old Republic games, set thousands of years before A New Hope) one finds more or less the same basic story of genocidal total war playing out there too. Star Wars has always been, in the EU at least, a universe more or less without hope, that only looked hopeful to casual fans because they were looking too closely at just a very slender part of it.

This is why, while I can certainly understand the impulse to complain about The Force Awakens as derivative, I really think this is more repetition with a difference than mere or base or stupid repetition. One Death Star is a horror; two Death Stars and one Starkiller Base and whatever horrific murder innovation the First Order will come up with for Episode 9 is something more like the inexorable logic of history, grinding us all to dust. Likewise, it’s true that The Force Awakens hits many of the same story beats as the Original Trilogy, but almost always in ways that are worse: the death of Obi-Wan was sad but mysterious, suggestive of a world beyond death which the Jedi could access, while the death of The Force Awakens‘s version of Obi-Wan is not only brutally material but visceral, and permanent, as far as we have any reason to believe right now. The loss of Alderaan is sad, but the loss of what appears to be the entire institutional apparatus of the resurgent Republic is unthinkably devastating; aside from the loss of life it would take decades for the Galaxy to recover from such an event, even if they weren’t having to fight off the First Order while doing it. The film is extremely vague about the relationship between the Republic and “the Resistance,” but it appears to be a proxy guerrilla war against the First Order fought inside their own territory, secretly funded by the Republic — and prosecuted by Leia, Akbar, Nien Nunb, and all our heroes from the first movies, whose lives are now revealed as permanently deformed by a forever war they can never put down or escape. (If you want to ask me where Lando is, I think he said “good enough” after Endor and walked away, and that sort of makes me hope they never find him, never drag him back into it.) It’s horrible to lose a parent to addiction, or to mental illness, or to ordinary everyday cruelty, however you want to allegorize Vader’s betrayal of his children — but how much worse would it be to lose a child to it, how much worse would such a thing taint every aspect of your life and poison all your joy.

That Star Wars implies a world of sorrow belied by the spectacle of Jedi‘s happy ending isn’t a surprise to me — I told you, I read the EU books — but I can see why it’s a surprise to someone whose last memory of these people is smiles, a fireworks display, hugs, and a picnic. Return of the Jedi never asked us what we thought would happen when those people woke up the next morning and the Empire still had 90% of its guns, ships, territory, generals, and soldiers, ready to descend into vicious, scorched-earth fanaticism as they slid into defeat; it just wasn’t that kind of story. The Force Awakens is that kind of story, and I find that interesting enough to be excited about 8 and 9, to see where they try to take this story now that it turns out fairy-tales aren’t real and that deeply entrenched totalitarian systems don’t have exhaust ports, trench runs, or single points of failure. So I think the emerging critical consensus that The Force Awakens infantilizes its audience by re-presenting us with the same images we all saw as children is actually deeply wrong: The Force Awakens condemns Luke, Leia, and Han to actually live inside history, rather than transcend it, and it condemns us too.

Sunday Morning Links!

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* One might, it’s true, wonder how cultural capital has survived the last half century’s apotheosis of pop, the rollback of the old patrician-bourgeois culture of the West, postmodernism’s putative muddling of low and high. But the sociologists have gone and checked, and the answers are not hard to find: Fancy people are now more likely to consume culture indiscriminately, that is, to congratulate themselves on the expansiveness of their tastes; indistinction has become distinction. They are more likely to prefer foreign culture to their own, at least in some who-wants-takeout? kind of way. And they are more likely to enjoy culture analytically and ironically, belligerently positing a naïve consumer whose imagined immersion in the object will set off everything in their own approach that is suavely arms-length and slaunchwise. Such, point for point, is the ethos of the new-model English department: of cultural studies, new media, the expanded canon, of theory-courses-without-objects. To bring new types of artifacts into literature departments is not to destroy cultural capital. It is merely to allow new things to start functioning as wealth. Even here, the claim to novelty can be overstated, since it is enough to read Bourdieu to know that the claim to interpret and demystify has always been an especially heady form of symbolic power. The ingenious reading confers distinction, as do sundry bids to fix the meanings of the social. Critical theory is cultural capital. Citing Judith Butler is one of the ways in which professional people outside the academy understand and justify their own elevation. Bickering recreationally about the politics of zombie movies is just what lawyers and engineers now do.

* The Kindle edition of The Best of Kim Stanley Robinson is (still) on sale for $1.99. Here’s the LARoB review!

* Meanwhile, LARoB also reviews Paradoxa 26, which has my essay on Snowpiercer in it.

* Extrapolation 56.1 is now available.

Sherryl Vint, “Skin Deep: Alienation in Under the Skin
Isiah Lavender, “Reframing Heart of Darkness as Science Fiction”
Sharon DeGraw, “Tobias S. Buckell’s Galactic Caribbean Future”
Karen May and David Upton, “‘Ser Piggy’: Identifying an Intertextual Relationship between William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones
Lee Braver, “Coin-Operated Doors and God: A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik”

Nepal After the Earthquake.

* Baltimore after Freddie Gray.

* The good inequality. Policy debate in the age of neoliberalism.

* Gene Wolfe, sci-fi’s difficult genius.

* The slow apocalypse and fiction.

* Can you fix the NBA draft?

In the meantime, we will all have to cope with the fact that education technology has just become weaponized. Arizona State is now the first predator university. They are willing to re-define what education is so that they can get more students from anywhere. If they don’t kill other universities by taking all their students with a cheap freshmen year, they’ll just steal their fish food by underselling 25% of the education that those schools provide and leaving them a quarter malnourished. The result is that schools which stick to reasonable standards with respect to the frequency and possibility of teacher/student interaction now have to fear for their very existence.

Contingency and Gender.

The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education.’

The obvious corollary is that, in order to stem the tide of tuition increases, we should seek to stabilize or increase state funding and curb the power of administrators.

Why They Hate Cornel West.

* I’m seeing it mostly mocked and dismissed, but I think the Columbia case (K.C. Johnson summary at Minding the Campus) will be important flashpoint in Title IX law. My sense is that the wind on this is really changing strongly against the feminist left; we’re going to see many of the received truths of campus anti-rape policies coming under serious challenge. It’s going to be difficult, and it’s going to require some unpleasant reconsideration of the way we talk about this issue.

New Simulation Shows How The Pacific Islands May Have Been Colonized.

Incredibly, the percentage of parents throughout the state who engaged in the civil disobedience of refusing the test for their kids is higher than the 15 percent of eligible voters who cast a ballot for Andrew Cuomo in the low-turnout election last year.

* All of the juniors at Nathan Hale High School refused to show up for state testing this week.

* Against the creative economy.

* What if Man of Steel was in color?

* Gasp! The Apple Watch May Have a Human Rights Problem.

Microsoft Word Spells the Names of Game of Thrones Characters Better Than You Can.

Nine Months After He Filmed Eric Garner’s Killing, the Cops Are Trying to Put Ramsey Orta Behind Bars.

“We must disband the police: Body cameras aren’t enough — only radical change will stop cops who kill.”

* Meanwhile.

* Yes please: Telltale is making some kind of Marvel game.

The Feds Say One Schmuck Trading From His Parents’ House Caused a Market Crash. Here’s the Problem.

* See, Dad? I knew you could survive on girl scout cookies.

* There’s always money in the banana stand: The Fed’s Cold War Bunker Had $4 Billion Cash For After The Apocalypse.

* Won’t you give? What you can? Today? Poetry is going extinct, government data show.

* I believe any crazy story with China in the headline. That’s my policy.

* Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything.

It’s Time To Stop Treating Childhood as a Disease.

* And you thought The Dark Knight Strikes Back was bad.

Sunday Night Links! Probably Too Many!

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17644_10101690572456291_9124726088155968029_n* Upcoming appearances: I’ll be speaking at the Environments & Societies workshop at UC Davis next Wednesday. And of course we’ll be debating whether Harry Potter is a dystopia (it is) this Wednesday here at Marquette.

* This is nice: Green Planets is a finalist for the ASLE book prize.

* CFP: The Contemporary: Culture in the Twenty-First Century.

* CFP: Jim Gordon as Batman is dumb.

* The Dolphin Trainer Who Loved Dolphins Too Much.

* The cult of the Ph.D. I suppose I’m a hopeless curmudgeon on this at this point, but I just don’t see how any attempt to reform graduate schools can ignore the fact that “the primary, overarching purpose of doctoral programs is to produce professors.” Alt-ac can save a few, but it can’t save everyone, or even most.

Everything We Learned About The Force Awakens At Star Wars Celebration. Look, I’m not made of stone.

* And then there was (sigh) DC. Double sigh.

* There still aren’t any states where women earn as much as men.

PayGap2Did Yoda And Obi-Wan Screw Princess Leia Over?

But in choosing a hero to defeat Vader, they sent Luke to Dagobah, not Leia. They sent the whiny uneducated hick whose greatest ambition until very recently had been to *join the Empire* instead of the smart, sophisticated, and well-educated woman with the political connections and Rebel cred?

It was only the last time I watched Return of the Jedi that I finally realized “that boy is our last hope / no, there is another” refers to Anakin, not Leia. So I’m pretty on board with this, especially now that the possibly exculpatory Expanded Universe context has been retconned out of existence.

Citi Economist Says It Might Be Time to Abolish Cash. This is a truly stunning document: the argument is that we need to abolish cash because otherwise bankers won’t be able to force everybody to accept negative interest rates.

* New from the new TNR: We’re Checking the Wrong Privilege.

* Heinlein shrugged.

America’s wealth grew by 60 percent in the past six years, by over $30 trillion. In approximately the same time, the number of homeless children has also grown by 60 percent.

155,000 New York kids boycott standardized tests.

Preserving the Ghastly Inventory of Auschwitz.

It is a moral stance with specific curatorial challenges. It means restoring the crumbling brick barracks where Jews and some others were interned without rebuilding those barracks, lest they take on the appearance of a historical replica. It means reinforcing the moss-covered pile of rubble that is the gas chamber at Birkenau, the extermination camp a few miles away, a structure that the Nazis blew up in their retreat. It means protecting that rubble from water seeping in from the adjacent ponds where the ashes of the dead were dumped.

And it means deploying conservators to preserve an inventory that includes more than a ton of human hair; 110,000 shoes; 3,800 suitcases; 470 prostheses and orthopedic braces; more than 88 pounds of eyeglasses; hundreds of empty canisters of Zyklon B poison pellets; patented metal piping and showerheads for the gas chambers; hundreds of hairbrushes and toothbrushes; 379 striped uniforms; 246 prayer shawls; more than 12,000 pots and pans carried by Jews who believed that they were simply bound for resettlement; and some 750 feet of SS documents — hygiene records, telegrams, architectural blueprints and other evidence of the bureaucracy of genocide — as well as thousands of memoirs by survivors.

* There’s jobs, there’s dirty jobs, and then there’s being Joseph Goebbels’s copyright lawyer.

Ewald Engelen, a professor of finance and geography at UvA who spoke about the perils of the financialization of higher education at the Maagdenhuis occupation, explained in a coauthored article, published in 2014, how rendementsdenken became the ruling logic – and logic of rule – at his university. After a 1995 decision transferring public ownership of real estate to universities like UvA, he and colleagues argued, education and research considerations started taking a backseat to commercial concerns regarding real estate planning. The state’s retreat from management of real estate demanded tighter account of “costs, profits, assets and liabilities” at the university, setting “in motion a process of internal reorganization to produce the transparent cash flow metrics that were required to service the rapidly growing real estate debt,” the academics wrote.

Neither the Brostrom or the Campos side focuses on the fact that privatization increases expenses as well as revenues. In reality, privatization forces the mission creep of multiplying activities, “businesses,” funding streams, capital projects and other debt-funded investments, which increase all sorts of non-educational costs and also administration.  Private partnerships, sponsors, vendor relations, and so on bring in new money but also cost money, require institutional subsidies, and in many cases lose money for the university.

The Education Department Is Working On A Process For Forgiving Student Loans.

* Sweet Briar didn’t die, it was put down. If he puts his mind to it, Jamshed Bharucha has the ability to effectively destroy whatever future remains for Cooper Union.

* I really wish we could get famous people to stop talking this way about autism.

* Towards a disability version of the Bechdel Test.

A disability version of the “Bechdel Test,” maybe?
1) There’s a disabled character visible
2) Who wants something, and tries to get it,
3) Other than a) Death, b) Cure, or c) Revenge.

* Cuomo’s master plan to turn SUNY into a startup factory has created 76 jobs.

Large Pile Of Cash Announces US Presidency Bid.

* The BBC has adapted The Left Hand of Darkness.

* I’m very much in favor of “they” as a generic singular pronoun, but “they are,” please, not “they is.”

Private Company Conspired With Police To Hold Poor People For Ransom, Lawsuit Charges.

Ex-Drug Cop: Drug Squad Stole Cash And Planted Drugs Too Many Times To Count.

* Only for certain values of “justice”: The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

* It seems like the deputy isn’t the person who should be charged with Eric Harris’s murder. This person never should have been working as a cop, for myriad reasons.

* The only way this can work: California Assembly panel approves legislation preventing police from viewing body camera footage.

Labeling the market natural and the state unnatural is a convenient fiction for those wedded to the status quo.

White parents in North Carolina are using charter schools to secede from the education system.

Racism in schools is pushing more black families to homeschool their children.

All 3 Oregon Basketball Players Suspended Over Sexual Assault Find New Teams.

* Shocked, shocked: Leaked videos suggest Chevron cover-up of Amazon pollution.

* The Atlantic covers graduate student unionization.

Los Angeles school district demands multi-million dollar refund from Apple.

Centuries of Italian History Are Unearthed in Quest to Fix Toilet.

* “All I know is the end is coming for all of us.”

* On not hate-watching, but hope-watching.

* George R. R. Martin: Once More, into the Kennels.

The Atlanta teachers’ trial: A perfect example of America’s broken justice system.

* How Israel Hid Its Secret Nuclear Weapons Program.

The Quest to Boot Old Hickory Off the $20.

Why the Vatican’s crackdown on nuns ended happily. Pope Francis’s Populist War on the Devil.

Latchkey children age restrictions by state. Wisconsin, you’re probably asleep at the switch here. But Illinois, you guys relax.

A Scan Of 100,000 Galaxies Shows No Sign Of Alien Mega-Civilizations. Okay, but let’s scan the next 900,000 just to be sure.

That aliens would have imperial ambitions is taken as natural. Far from being the historical outcome of a specific organization of capital in the latter half of the second millennium, these signatories assume that the ideology of capitalist imperialism is inevitable across the galaxy. To be fair, though, the Fermi Paradox is a “it just takes one” claim, not a “all societies are alike” claim.

* If you’re so smart, why aren’t you terrified all the time?

Chase nightmares with behind-the-scenes photos from Return To Oz.

The Photo Hitler Doesn’t Want You to See.

* More on how Game of Thrones deviates from the books. And a fun flashback: The first pilot for Game of Thrones was so bad HBO almost passed on the entire series.

* It’s almost like Batman didn’t think this thing through.

* Dumb, but maybe my favorite Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal of all time.

* And teach the controversy: Tim Goodman says the Waitress arc on Mad Men might not be stupid and pointless.

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Written by gerrycanavan

April 19, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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